WEST HOLLYWOOD — Diesel chief executive officer Renzo Rosso arrived in California to woo shoppers with a new store prototype that promotes eclectic luxury with a touch of cool.
The 3,500-square-foot space on a prime corner of Melrose Place, across from Marc Jacobs and next to Mulberry, is meant to evoke a work in progress with its exposed electrical system, removable glass walls and unfinished wood wall frames. It is Diesel's fifth store in Southern California.
Rosso leaned forward in a butterscotch-colored leather armchair that was set in a nook showcasing $300 orange wedge sandals, $500 chestnut-tinted doctor-style bags that were etched with roses and other accessories. He explained during a two-day trip here last month how the Italian denim and sportswear brand interpreted Americana.
"Everything is open space," he said. "You can see everything. It's like a house — very comfortable."
To be sure, Diesel didn't skimp on the store's budget. Company officials said Diesel spent "seven figures" on decor, which includes a side panel from an F-16 fighter jet that forms the backdrop for hung jeans, a custom-made wood floor decorated with an airplane motif, an imposing wooden door with iron handles from a 17th-century Italian castle and a white ceiling carved with images of pistols shooting flowers.
"It's a more modern attitude to blend things," Rosso said, noting that consumers now buy and mix "something from H&M and Zara and a jacket from [Martin] Margiela."
Avoiding a luxury enclave like Rodeo Drive, which he said is patronized mostly by tourists, Rosso said he picked Melrose Place for the prototype because it is more modern, cool, fashion-driven and frequented by locals. "This is a special district, a little bijou," he said.
Rosso brushed off the slump in the U.S. denim market. He said he was pleased that overall industry sales are down because it means an authentic, established jeans maker like Diesel can grab more market share. In the 200 worldwide stores that Diesel owns, denim sales grew 3 percent in the first five months of this year compared with last year, and comprised 41 percent of the company's total sales, he said, adding that, even in its wholesale business, denim revenue is up."Don't forget, we are a lifestyle brand,'' Rosso said. "We are not just a denim brand."
The brand is on full display in the flagship. Diesel is showing for the first time its high-end Denim Gallery line with its main jeans grouping, and it is selling the clothes from its New York runway shows, premium line and a capsule collection from the winner of its annual young designer contest. Such a mix helped to already double sales expectations for the shop, Rosso said, declining to discuss specifics.
Even during the May 30 launch party, when the street was closed off for a barbecue, hipster guests could purchase $70 T-shirts, $180 pink jeans, $360 cape-like leather boleros and other pieces when they weren't munching on mini burgers and ice cream sandwiches. As the DJ trio The MisShapes put on Erasure's "A Little Respect," oil heir Brandon Davis took a spin on a mechanical bull. Revelers almost set off a stampede when Hot Hot Heat hit the stage.
Rosso continued entertaining guests, such as Adriano Goldschmied, the Italian designer of Los Angeles' GoldSign and his former Diesel partner, at the after party at a hilltop villa owned by Flaunt editor in chief Luis Barajas until he left to catch a 1:45 a.m. flight to Italy.
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